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How I Learned to Be Irish

It’s not all about the Guinness. Well … it is a little.

I have never celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with Shamrock-shaped glasses, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” T-shirts, or green beer.

There’s Irish in my blood, but until about seven years ago, I didn’t really celebrate it at all.

But then my family and I watched a series of St. Patrick’s Day specials on Food Network and realized how much we didn’t know about our own heritage—especially about its food. We’d never thought about Irish food.

It’s always been easy to celebrate our Italian roots, because that culture is more recent to us. We can pinpoint the decade our family came to the United States. We still have closely-guarded family recipes, and we know some Italian phrases.

But the Scotch-Irish side of our family has been in the United States since the 1700s … we think. We don’t know a lot about where that side of the family came from. We might be more Scotch than Irish.

As Italians, specific foods are a major part of the holidays we celebrate. Easter, in our family, is one of the most food-centric holidays. Why should St. Patrick’s Day—which has grown to represent the other half of our mixed heritage—be any different?

We learned from our research that the Irish (and the Scottish, for that matter), aren’t known for having specialty foods in the same way Italians are. Irish food truly boils down to meat-and-potatoes staples. It’s just the basics, and the basics are delicious.

So today, at my family’s house, there will be Guinness, but no green beer. Dinner will be simple: brisket, potatoes with cabbage and bacon, and soda bread. (Guinness Stout cupcakes for dessert, courtesy of .)

We’ll take the time to have dinner together, listen to bagpipe music until we can’t stand it, laugh, and see if we can learn a few more things about the Scotch-Irish culture I’m increasingly proud of.

This will be the seventh St. Patrick’s Day dinner our family has had, and I always look forward to celebrating this holiday in a completely non-tacky way. If we get really ambitious one year, we might even try to say a few words in Gaelic.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Erin Faulk is the editor of Dormont-Brookline Patch.

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